082620_MNS_FB_HIES Landon Kardian

Holy Innocents’ wide receiver Landon Kardian makes a leaping touchdown catch during a game in 2019.

Holy Innocents’ had perhaps its best football season in school history last year. The team went 10-0 in the regular season, including a huge 42-41 overtime victory against Eagle’s Landing Christian (ELCA) in September to snap the Chargers’ 15-game winning streak.

The Golden Bears won the region title and advanced to the Class A Private state semifinals before falling to eventual champion ELCA 21-7 and finishing with a 12-1 record.

That season was preceded by a 2018 campaign in which the Golden Bears won six games and reached the second round of the state playoffs, achieving both milestones for the first time since 2013.

“The past two years we have had very successful seasons. The past two seasons have showed our players the commitment it takes to be a competitive football program year in and year out,” said head coach Todd Winter, who is entering his fourth season at the school and his 22nd year overall as a head coach.

But repeating the success of 2019 may be tough. Though they return six starters on offense and five on defense, the Golden Bears lost star running back Michael Cox, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 32 TDs and signed with Missouri, quarterback Matt Davis (1,214 yards rushing and 426 yards passing), linebacker Hunter Hawk (124 tackles; signed with Washington and Lee) defensive linemen Hall O’Neal (43 tackles; signed with Kennesaw State) and Sam Aiken (64 tackles and 11 sacks) and safety Jack Felton (104 tackles).

Who will step up to fill those shoes?

Eight seniors – center Connor Swennumson, offensive tackle Mac Mitchell, running back/cornerback Tyquann Alexander (409 yards rushing), wide receiver/defensive back Landon Kardian (219 yards receiving/40 tackles and 3 INTs; has scholarship offers from Austin Peay and Air Force), quarterback/punter Marshal Nichols (averaged 46.68 yards per punt; committed to Mississippi State as a punter), defensive back Bo Maxwell (63 tackles) and linebacker William Willis (95 tackles) – and three juniors – guard/defensive lineman Jacobe Harmon, running back/cornerback Donovan Johnson (46 tackles) and tight end/linebacker James Gleeson (15 tackles) – hope to provide the answer.

Also, a quintet of newcomers – junior offensive tackle/defensive lineman Mikey Bennett, junior running back/linebacker Wyatt Lybrook, junior running back Joe Hingson, sophomore running back/defensive back Drew Bomar and senior guard Jack McGinty – are expected to make an impact.

“We return key players at (linebacker), in the secondary, on the (offensive line) and our punter,” Winter said. “We must develop our offensive backfield and defensive line. We should be a competitive football team again this year.”

Holy Innocents’ will kick off its season Sept. 4 at Pace.

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